Three women sewing (Courtesy of Global Mamas)
With support from Prosper Africa, Global Mamas, based in Ghana, projects its sales of African women’s handmade products to soon surpass pre-pandemic levels. (Courtesy of Global Mamas)

Global Mamas’ sales of handmade crafts plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The loss of revenue cost the Ghana-based company employees and harmed the craftswomen the company works with across Africa.

With support from the U.S. government’s Prosper Africa initiative, Global Mamas raised $2 million in private funding and projects to boost sales above pre-pandemic levels. Global Mamas expects the investment will allow the company to preserve at least 250 jobs and create 85 new ones by the end of 2022.

Prosper Africa is a U.S. government initiative that supports two-way trade and investment between the United States and Africa by connecting buyers, suppliers and investors across regions.

“This co-investment partnership will support Global Mamas’ aim to build a more resilient organization,” said Renae Adam, founder and director of Global Mamas. She added that the company’s recovery will have “rippling effects” for craftswomen across Africa.

Since Prosper Africa’s launch in June 2019, the U.S. government has supported 500 trade and investment deals across 44 countries, worth an estimated $47 billion. As President Biden put it in a February 5 address to the African Union Summit, growing global trade and investment advances prosperity for all our nations. “We must all work together to advance our shared vision of a better future,” he said.

Prosper Africa brings the resources and expertise of 17 U.S. government agencies and departments to support U.S. and African businesses and investors across multiple sectors. The initiative supports projects that bring higher wages, new jobs and clean energy to Africa, while also growing businesses and creating jobs in the United States.

Woman smiling and holding nuts (USADF/Prosper Africa)
Eu’Genia Shea’s profits support education for African shea nut harvesters’ children. (USADF/Prosper Africa)

Supporting education

Eu’Genia Shea is one of many companies finding success investing in Africa’s agricultural sector.

Despite booming global demand for shea butter, a traditional African beauty product, the 16 million women who harvest shea nuts across 21 African countries have not always seen much of the profit.

Eu’Genia Shea purchases shea nuts at a 20% premium and donates 15% of its profits back to pay for educational costs for the children of shea nut harvesters or for the workers’ retirement. Eugenia Akuete, who immigrated to the United States from Ghana, and her daughter Naa-Sakle, grew the company with support from U.S. Agency for International Development training programs and U.S. African Development Foundation grants. They now sell their skin care products to more than 1,000 Target retail stores. Eu’Genia Shea works with roughly 10,000 African shea nut pickers, each of whom supports an average of five dependents.

Fighting poverty

Mira Mehta founded Tomato Jos in northern Nigeria after realizing the region lacked sufficient tomato-processing facilities. As a result, Nigerians imported tomato paste for cooking, while much of their own tomato harvest went to waste.

With U.S. government support, Tomato Jos has raised $4.4 million in investments to support a new processing facility and modern equipment to serve the local market. Mehta, who is American, expects to increase staff from 50 to 70 employees and work with thousands of farmers, bringing more than $1 million in increased revenue for Nigerian tomato farmers each year. Farmers working with Tomato Jos make five to six times what they would without the partnership, Mehta says.

Group of people posing for photo in front of crops (Courtesy of Tomato Jos)
Team Tomato Jos celebrates the end of the 2016 tomato season. (Courtesy of Tomato Jos)

Mehta says Prosper Africa helped Tomato Jos better explain to investors the value of its work and why it was time to expand production.

“The social issue that Tomato Jos is trying to tackle is, bottom line, poverty,” Mehta said in a video posted online. “We want to make people have agency in their lives, be able to make choices about where to send their kids to school, how to pay for health care. That’s really what we care about”